FRANCESCO GONZAGA, 4th Marquis of Mantua (1466-1519). Grant of citizenship to Antonio di Francesco del Sacrato of Ferrara, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
Mantua, 6 May 1487
460 x 535mm. 20 lines written in brown ink in a humanistic cursive by Sigismondus Golfus, secretary to the Marquis, LARGE DISPLAY CAPITALS IN BURNISHED GOLD, and ILLUMINATED BORDER of scrolling white vine stems against grounds of magenta, blue, green and gold with groups of three dots, TWO ROUNDELS, ONE CONTAINING A GOLDFINCH, THE OTHER A DEER both in barren landscapes, a bounding fillet and marginal disks of gold with brown penwork flourishing, in the upper margin THREE ROUNDELS WITH THE SACRATI AND GONZAGA ARMS AND A GONZAGA DEVICE, subscribed by Sigismundus Golphus (silver oxidised in Gonzaga arms, slight wear at folds, a few pinholes at corners, lacks seal).
This grant of citizenship, motivated 'for the advancement and embellishment of Mantua', was conferred upon Count Antonio son of the 'golden knight' Francesco del Sacrato of Ferrara for his loyalty to the city and to Francesco Gonzaga. The privilege of citizenship of city and state of Mantua was granted to Antonio, his sons and descendants of either sex, without any restriction: he was to have 'free occasion and power and opportunity in everything, so that he can receive and hold unchallenged the goods and rights under whatever title, enjoy and profit with impunity ... having the same rights as the ancient and original citizens of our aforesaid state'. It specified that nothing, including the statutes of the Consiglio Maggior, could invalidate these rights and that Antonio and his descendants were to be recognised as citizens of Mantua by all the other citizens of Mantua. The grant ends by charging the Podestà, Massarius, judges, sapientes etc to fully observe the grant and ensure it was 'inviolably observed by others all and singular'.
The Sacrati were one of the families whose fortunes and standing in Ferrara were promoted in the middle of the 15th century by d'Este grants of land and political promotion: they supervised the d'Este estates. Francesco, Antonio's father, was made a count by Pope Nicholas V in 1449. Relations between the Este and Gonzaga courts were close; the marriage of Isabella d'Este to Francesco Gonzaga had been agreed when both were children. Francesco succeeded his father as Marquis in 1484, and at the time of this grant of citizenship he was still only 21 and taking care to secure his position by fostering links and avoiding conflict.
In spite of his overriding military and equine interests Francesco was a discerning patron - it was for him that Mantegna completed the Triumphs of Caesar - and it may be that the splendid illuminated heading and border of this document were completed in his chancery; the style of the decoration, however, the white vine border and especially the roundels with animals that are so evocative of Fra Evangelista da Reggio, raise the possibility that Antonio del Sacrato arranged the embellishment of his grant by a Ferrarese artist. The Sacrati family were the patrons of the chapel of the Three Magi in S. Domenico, Ferrara that were frescoed by Cosimo Tura.